- Updated May 30, 2020
- Writen by Editorial Staff
- Table of Contents
10 Best Crossbows: Recurve, Compound, Rifle, Pistol, Repeating
- Updated May 28, 2018
- Writen by Editorial Staff
- Table of Contents
Although modern crossbows still maintain the traditional bow mounted on a stock design, there are now many variations of the crossbow than at any other time. And this is what makes it important to know how to choose the best crossbows.
Crossbows will differ in much more than the variation in design as they will offer different draw lengths, speeds and also produce varying amounts of noise.
When it comes to choosing the best or top-rated crossbows, information is always the key. And in this piece, we highlight all the important things you need to know about these bows and also provide comprehensive reviews.
- Types of Crossbow
- Crossbow Types Comparison Table
- 10 Best Crossbows – Reviews
- 1. Barnett 78128 – Best Overall
- 2. Cobra System Self Cocking Pistol Tactical Crossbow – Best Budget Crossbow
- 3. Barnett 78404 – Lightweight and Compact Crossbow with a Pleasant Look
- 4. Barnett BAR78004 – High Speed Bow for Small Game Hunting
- 5. SA Sports 6305433 – Inexpensive, Lightweight and Convenient Recurve Crossbow
- 6. Carbon Express 20249 – Repeatable Accuracy Guaranteed
- 7. Barnett 78220 – Fast and Powerful
- 8. Arrow Precision 199 – Unbeatable Target Shooting Crossbow
- 9. Excalibur Matrix 380 Crossbow – Functional and Reliable Recurve Crossbow
- 10. CenterPoint Sniper 370 – Fantastic Pick for your First Bow
- Crossbow Brands
- How to Buy the Best Crossbows
Types of Crossbow
When it comes to buying the best crossbow one of the first decision that you will need to make is the type to buy.
If you are a seasoned archer or are looking for something for a specific purpose, then you probably already know what you want. But, if you are just getting into crossbow shooting the following are the most common types in the market.
1. Recurve Crossbow
The recurve crossbow is one of the oldest types and it gets its name from the delicate curves on the ends of the bow that point away from the archer.
The curved ends on the bow are functional as they help to keep the string in place to ensure it does not flick out. And they achieve this by straining and locking in the string.
Although you can find various variations of the modern crossbows, most are made from aluminum, carbon fiber or magnesium.
These bows are quite easy to aim and will often feature a longer draw length than most other crossbow types. This longer draw length ensures that the bow can offer greater acceleration for the projectile.
But, the greater pressure exerted on the bow due to its length also makes it noisier when fired. Also, these bows will put more strain on the string and so you will probably need to keep buying new strings when using it.
Recurve crossbows produce remarkable power and strength and they will be ideal for taking long range shots and hunting large game.
2. Compound Crossbow
The compound crossbow comes in a more complex design than the recurve and it also has more parts. And this means that it is also harder to set up.
But, despite the harder and time consuming set up the compound crossbow is surprisingly easy to use which makes it a popular choice for seasoned hunters.
Compound bows have a stiff build that gives them high energy efficiency. They feature a string connected to a system of pulleys that is them linked to the other limb using a similar system.
When you draw back the string the pulleys on the end of the bow will turn to allow the cables to move and bend the limbs, and this saves a lot of energy for the shot.
The design and materials of the compound crossbow make it highly accurate, durable and also weather resistant. But its greatest demerit is that it has numerous parts which make maintenance quite complicated.
3. Rifle Crossbow
Like most other bow types, the crossbow has been evolving over the years and one of the more recent innovations is the rifle crossbow.
The rifle crossbow is a modern hybrid that combines the traits of the traditional crossbow with some features of a rifle. Just like a rifle, it is highly accurate and with superior aim capability.
With technological advancements like top-notch sights and heavy-duty construction incorporated in the design of this crossbow, you can always be confident of having a reliable hunting tool.
These crossbows are the best for long range shots where accuracy is vital. And they also come in a narrower profile than most others which makes them very convenient for penetrating narrow spaces.
Also, the rail design on the rifle crossbow is also top notch to make it possible to launch bolts with minimal friction for unmatched velocity.
The most significant shortcoming of this crossbow is that it takes a lot of power to operate and launch shots.
4. Pistol Crossbow
For beginners that are looking for something easy to use and lightweight enough for hunting small game, the pistol crossbow is a great choice.
This compact bow gets its name from their compact size and they will often come with a draw weight of between 80 and 150 pounds.
The pistol crossbows also have a high accuracy which also makes them ideal for beginners. But, they will not be very useful when hunting big game.
5. Repeating Crossbow
If you are one of those new archers that do not want to put in the work and effort that it takes to become a skilled archer, the repeating crossbow is the best beginner crossbow option for you.
Repeating crossbows take almost no effort to use and will not require any special technique to master its use.
This bow takes a single motion to execute a shot hence making it the most convenient option in the market. It can shoot up to three times faster than the ordinary crossbows and this makes it the best choice when speed is your main concern.
However, these types of crossbows are too mechanical and this can take some or most of the fun out of hunting and there is also no way to improve the performance.
Crossbow Types Comparison Table
Our table below compares the different crossbow types and highlights the good and bad attributes of each to make it easier for you to pick one that suits your needs.
10 Best Crossbows – Reviews
1. Barnett 78128 (Best Overall)
2. Cobra System Self Cocking Pistol Tactical Crossbow (Best Budget Crossbow)
3. Barnett 78404 (Lightweight and Compact Crossbow with a Pleasant Look)
4. Barnett BAR78004 (High Speed Bow for Small Game Hunting)
5. SA Sports 6305433 (Inexpensive, Lightweight and Convenient Recurve Crossbow)
6. Carbon Express 20249 (Repeatable Accuracy Guaranteed)
7. Barnett 78220 (Fast and Powerful)
8. Arrow Precision 199 (Unbeatable Target Shooting Crossbow)
9. Excalibur Matrix 380 Crossbow (Functional and Reliable Recurve Crossbow)
10. CenterPoint Sniper 370 (Fantastic Pick for your First Bow)
1. Barnett 78128
2. Cobra System Self Cocking Pistol Tactical Crossbow
(Best Budget Crossbow)
3. Barnett 78404
(Lightweight and Compact Crossbow with a Pleasant Look)
4. Barnett BAR78004
(High Speed Bow for Small Game Hunting)
5. SA Sports 6305433
(Inexpensive, Lightweight and Convenient Recurve Crossbow)
6. Carbon Express 20249
(Repeatable Accuracy Guaranteed)
7. Barnett 78220
(Fast and Powerful)
8. Arrow Precision 199
(Unbeatable Target Shooting Crossbow)
9. Excalibur Matrix 380 Crossbow
(Functional and Reliable Recurve Crossbow)
10. CenterPoint Sniper 370
(Fantastic Pick for your First Bow)
1. Barnett 78128 – Best Overall
- Speed: 350 FPS
- Draw Weight: 150 lbs
- Power Stroke: 12.5 inches
At a total weight of just 6.5 pounds, this Barnett crossbow is one of the lightest on our list and it will be very convenient for carrying on your hunting expeditions.
Like with most of their other crossbows, the company does most of the assembly and so archers will only need to do minimal setup which only takes a few minutes before shooting.
This bow will generate speeds of up to 350 FPS and with a 150-pound draw weight. And despite this being a highly powerful bow, it is still super quiet thanks to the custom laminated composite limbs and string dampeners.
There is also an anti-dry fire system on the bow for safety. And although you cannot decock this crossbow before shooting, it does not have any other significant shortcoming and hence making it one of the best crossbows under 500 dollars.
You have to shoot to decock this crossbow which in some situation can be a little inconvenient but for most archer this will hardly be a significant problem.
More Detailed: Barnett 78128 Crossbow Review
2. Cobra System Self Cocking Pistol Tactical Crossbow – Best Budget Crossbow
- Speed: 165 FPS
- Draw Weight: 80 lbs
- Power Stroke: 6.0 inches
If you are just starting out in crossbow archery this highly affordable crossbow will be very useful for you.
It is a durable plastic and compressed molded fiberglass crossbow that generates a speed of 165 FPS and a draw weight of just 80 pounds which make it ideal for hunting small game or target shooting.
Also, this is a lightweight crossbow with a relatively narrower profile hence making it one of the best compact crossbows in the market.
And the fact that it comes ready to shoot and with an impressive 39 arrows also helps to cement its position as the best overall crossbow on our list.
For larger game hunting, this bow might nit have the power or speed required but for sports shooting and hunting small game it is an excellent choice.
3. Barnett 78404 – Lightweight and Compact Crossbow with a Pleasant Look
- Speed: 315 FPS
- Draw Weight: 150 lbs
- Power Stroke: 12 inches
The high definition camouflage is the first element that will draw you to the Jackal crossbow from Barnett but there is still more to it than the appealing look.
This compound crossbow comes with lightweight stock and compact quad limbs with some high energy wheels and synthetic string cable system. And they all combine to make it an easy to use and effective bow even for beginners.
Also, the 315 FPS crossbow uses the anti-dry fire MIM mechanism to make it safer for the user and Barnett will back it up with a 5-year limited warranty.
The quiver mounting bracket is relatively weaker when compared to what other crossbows out there provide but it should still work well enough.
More Detailed: Barnett 78404 Croosbow Review
4. Barnett BAR78004 – High Speed Bow for Small Game Hunting
- Speed: 400 FPS
- Draw Weight: 165 lbs
- Power Stroke: 16.375 inches
Whitetail Pro STR has all it takes to make it one of the best crossbows for hunting deer and other medium size game in the market.
It delivers one of the highest speeds on our list (400 FPS) and with a draw weight of 165 pounds. But the STR (stand-through riser) is its main highlight and one of the factors that make it a high performing bow.
Other impressive features on this crossbow include string dampeners that help to reduce vibrations and noise, 4 x 32 multi-reticle scope and crank-cocking capability.
Also, this is a ready-to-use crossbow when you get it as it comes with the arrows, side-mounting quiver, rope cocking device and even some lubrication wax.
There seems to be a few flimsy parts like the finger minders but because most are chap and easy to replace they should not be deal breakers.
More Detailed: Barnett BAR78004 Whitetail Pro STR Review
5. SA Sports 6305433 – Inexpensive, Lightweight and Convenient Recurve Crossbow
- Speed: 240 FPS
- Draw Weight: 175 lbs
- Power Stroke: 11.5 inches
For the archers that prefer to use the recurve bow, this will be a great choice. And it combines several features to make it one of the best recurve crossbows out there.
This relatively affordable crossbow uses an ambidextrous auto safety system and a large boot style foot stirrup. Also, there is a quick detaching quiver that is very convenient when shooting.
The lightweight composite barrel is also a great addition to this crossbow while the 4 x 32 illuminated reticle scope is very handy when it comes to aiming.
When you buy this bow you will also get a padded shoulder sling, rope cocking device and a free replacement string.
The arrow speeds you get with this recurve bow are relatively slower when compared to other options on out list. However, the 240 FPS is still fantastic for both sports shooting and hunting.
6. Carbon Express 20249 – Repeatable Accuracy Guaranteed
- Speed: 320 FPS
- Draw Weight: 165 lbs
- Power Stroke: 12.5 inches
The lightweight overall construction and repeatable accuracy combine to make the Blade X-force one of the best beginner crossbows on our list.
With this bow, you get arrow speeds of up to 320 FPS and a draw weight of 165 pounds both of which are quite good for most archers. And this crossbow will come as a ready to hunt kit with all the essentials you need.
Its lightweight aluminum rail is what helps to ensure the repeated accuracy and the bow also comes with an adjustable butt-stock and foregrip to provide a custom fit.
And to ensure fast loading, Carbon Express fits this crossbow with a slip-resistant single piece stirrup.
Although the scope on this bow would do with some upgrade it is still quite clear and will be very helpful.
7. Barnett 78220 – Fast and Powerful
- Speed: 410 FPS
- Draw Weight: 185 lbs
- Power Stroke: 15.375 inches
With speeds of up to 410 FPS, the Ghost 410 CRT is the fastest and also the best powerful crossbow on our list.
It also features an ultra-light and super-strong machined aluminum riser that is up to 43% lighter. And it is also a safer-to-shoot bow with finger guard and pass-through foregrip.
Ghost 410 comes with some custom composite limbs and the Crosswire string and cable system that help to enhance the overall performance.
When you buy this powerful crosssbow you will get everything you need to shoot in the package including the arrows, and it is easy and quick to set up.
This crossbow is quite pricey when compared to others on our list but its power and speed make it worth it.
8. Arrow Precision 199 – Unbeatable Target Shooting Crossbow
- Speed: 235 FPS
- Draw Weight: 175 lbs
- Power Stroke: 10.5 inches
If you do not intend to shoot targets, this relatively affordable crossbow will work well for you. And it comes as a complete package with everything you need for immediate shooting when you get it.
It produces arrow speeds of 235 FPS and with a draw weight of 175 pounds and relatively shorter 10.5 inches power stroke.
At 4.84 pounds it is one of the lightest on our crossbow reviews and it also uses some high-quality materials that include compression fiberglass limbs, aluminum barrel, and lightweight composite stock.
Other things that make this an outstanding bow include the premium 3-dot multi-range red dot scope, padded shoulder sling, and anti-dry fire mechanism.
The shooting range seems a little limited but for a budget crossbow like this one it is still good enough.
9. Excalibur Matrix 380 Crossbow – Functional and Reliable Recurve Crossbow
- Speed: 380 FPS
- Draw Weight: 260 lbs
- Power Stroke: 13.1 inches
Excalibur Matrix 380 comes with the functionality and reliability of Excalibur crossbows but also with their unique Tact-Zone scope that helps to enhance its performance.
This crossbow comes as a complete kit with everything you need to shoot including the arrows, and it also has other outstanding features like the ergo-grip stock.
The compact overall profile makes it easy to pack and carry and the easily to detach quiver and easy to assemble design further make this a fantastic recurve crossbow.
Although Excalibur Matrix 380 has the heaviest draw weight on our list, it is still a compact, quiet and powerful bow that will deliver speeds of up to 380 FPS.
10. CenterPoint Sniper 370 – Fantastic Pick for your First Bow
- Speed: 370 FPS
- Draw Weight: 185 lbs
- Power Stroke: 13.5 inches
The CenterPoint Sniper 370 is a great compound bow that will be an excellent pick for both hunting and target shooting for those that are looking to buy their first bows.
It is one of the best crossbows under 400 dollars and it will come with an adjustable stock and forearm to make it easier to use and more convenient for beginners.
This bow also comes with a lightweight and highly durable CNC machined aluminum rail that combines with the see-through riser to ensure that archers always gets accurate and consistent shots.
There is also an integrated string dampener that provides quiet and vibration-free shots. And the package comes with everything you need to shoot which also makes this one of the best beginner crossbows as you will not need to buy anything else before using it.
The safety might feel a little cheap but it still does an amazing job and can take more abuse than it looks.
The popularity of crossbow for both hunting and recreational or sports shooting has been one a steady rise in the last few decades.
And it is because of this that there are now almost countless companies that make them and new ones are always coming up.
However, there are a few that still manage to stand out from the crowd for making accurate and highly durable crossbows. Some of these best crossbow brands include the following five.
Barnett is famous for having many models of crossbows in the market and they seem to specialize in making the compound crossbow types.
The company prides in being one of the few to have sold more than a million crossbows since they began operation.
Also, they are an industry leader when it comes to innovations with some of their most impressive technologies being the self-cocking devices and fully-integrated crank cocking device.
Most of their crossbows will come with draw weights that are typically in the mid range and they are quite heavy as most compound crossbows tend to be.
In addition to their top-notch crossbows, Barnett also provides various accessories to help you enhance the performance of the bow such as scopes that are compatible with all their crossbows.
If you are a crossbow hunter, the chances are that you already know about Excalibur as it is one of the most preferred brands by seasoned hunters.
Excalibur has been making top-rated crossbows since 1983 and few other brands are able to match the speed and reliability of their bows.
The lightweight nature of Excalibur crossbows is another factor that seems to set them apart from others as most will weigh under 6 pounds.
Also, their crossbows tend to be incredibly accurate and fast with most of their models providing speeds that are between 305 and 350 FPS.
Excalibur makes recurve crossbows and if you are just starting out they tend to be very beginner-friendly.
3. Carbon Express
Carbon Express is one of the relatively new crossbows manufactures. Their CX2 and Covert CX3 are some of their popular models.
Although their crossbows are well-made, the brand seems to be more famous for their fantastic bolts and arrows.
All their crossbows come in the more complicated compound design and with speeds that range between 330 and 385 FPS. And this makes them great for hunting medium size and large animals.
Carbon Express crossbows will weight around 7.5 pounds and are covered with a 5-year limited warranty.
Horton is a famous brand when it comes to making crossbows with unusual designs or ones that try to break away from the norm.
For example, the Horton Havoc comes with reversed limbs which are quite a rare feature in the industry while the company designs the Horton Zombie RIP for killing zombies.
Most of their top-rated crossbows will provide speeds of upwards of 300 FPS which makes them a great tool for hunting.
When it comes to the weight, Horton crossbows seem to be heavier than what you get from most other crossbow brands as many of their models will be at least 8 pounds or more.
5. SA Sports
Like Carbon Express, SA Sports is a relatively new entrant to the crossbow industry but the company is already winning many people over by making high-quality bows that are still very affordable.
Another thing that many archers seem to love is that they have a wide variety of products. Their products range from simple beginner recurve crossbow to tough compound crossbows for the seasoned archers or for taking down large game.
Depending on the model that you pick, you can expect to get arrow speeds of between 240 and 375 FPS if you chose to buy your crossbow from SA Sports.
Also, their crossbows tend to be lightweight with most models weighing around 6.5 pounds or less.
How to Buy the Best Crossbows
To choose the best crossbow you need to consider the following factors when shopping.
The first thing when shopping for a crossbow should always be to figure out how or what you intend to use the bow for.
You have to decide whether you are going to need a crossbow for hunting like Barnett BAR78004 or just for target shooting like the Carbon Express 20249 as this determines the right type for you and also the accessories you need.
If you want something for target shooting or just for having fun during your free time, something cheap is just okay as you will not be concerned a lot about speed or reliability.
But, if you want something for hunting, everything from the accuracy and speeds to weight and design of the crossbow matters a lot.
Also, the best youth crossbow might not be powerful enough for adults and experienced archers and so you also need to consider the age and skills of the archer.
2. Draw Weight
Draw weight refers to the amount of force it takes to latch the crossbow. And to state it simply, the higher the draw weight, the harder it will be to cock the bow.
However, it is also important to note that the draw weight also determines the amount of speed that the arrow can generate. And so as much as you will want to get a crossbow that is easy to cock, you do not also want to compromise the speed.
When it comes to the draw weight the most important thing is to strike a balance between the ease of use and performance or speed.
Speed determines how hard the arrow will hit the target and in many instances, it is often the difference between making a kill and not.
Like with other bow types the arrow speed is measured in FPS (feet per second) and the best powerful crossbows are those that deliver at least 300 FPS.
There are some bows that have been recorded to produce speeds of an impressive 500 FPS but you will probably never need all that.
And so whether you are hunting small or large animals something in the 300 range like Barnett 78404 and many others on our list should be more than enough.
There are several accessories that you need when using the crossbow effectively and many others that are just meant to improve its performance.
The most common crossbow accessories include the bolts, arrows, quiver, scope and a cocking device. And the more accessories you have the better.
A crossbow that comes with these accessories in the package is always a great option as you will not need to buy them separately. Also, if you have to buy anything separately, make sure you know what the particular crossbow model uses to avoid disappointments.
The crossbow materials matter a lot as they will affect both the performance and durability. When it comes to the material there are several parts to watch out for such as the stock and riser.
For the stock, molded plastic and resin coated plywood are the two most common option. Plastic makes the stock lightweight but it also gives off more vibrations/shock. Machined aluminum risers, on the other hand, are always the best.
Regardless whether you are a serious hunters or target shooter, the most important thing is to make sure you get the best crossbow, and our reviews will help with this.
Each model on our crossbow reviews is top-quality, but the Barnett 78128 seems to have an edge over the others thanks to its high arrow speed and sturdier design and is hence our best overall model.
That said, the Cobra System Self Cocking Pistol Tactical Crossbow is our recommendation for the archers looking for a more affordable bow.